Gallium binds to the iron transport protein transferrin (Tf), is incorporated into cells through transferrin receptors (TfR) and inhibits iron-dependent DNA synthesis. Since cellular TfR expression is tightly regulated by the availability of iron, we investigated the effects of transferrin-gallium (Tf-Ga) on TfR mRNA levels in myeloid HL60 and lymphoid CCRF-CEM cells. In HL60 cells, Tf-Ga increased TfR mRNA levels in a dose-dependent fashion. This increase in TfR mRNA was blocked by Tf-Fe and by cycloheximide. Analysis of the rate of mRNA decay in the presence of actinomycin D revealed that the half-life of TfR mRNA was increased in HL60 cells incubated with Tf-Ga. The rate of transcription of TfR mRNA was not increased by Tf-Ga. In contrast with HL60 cells, CCRF-CEM cells displayed a decrease in the level of TfR mRNA after incubation with Tf-Ga. Tf-Ga inhibited iron uptake in both HL60 and CCRF-CEM cells but increased the level of TfR mRNA only in HL60 cells, suggesting that the Tf-Ga induction of TfR mRNA was not solely due to inhibition of cellular iron uptake. At growth-inhibitory concentrations, Tf-Ga increased the TfR mRNA level in HL60 cells but decreased it in CCRF-CEM cells. Our studies suggest that in HL60 cells, gallium regulates TfR expression at the post-transcriptional level by mechanisms which require de novo protein synthesis and involve interaction with iron. The divergent effects of Tf-Ga on TfR mRNA in myeloid HL60 and lymphoid CCRF-CEM cells suggest that differences exist in the regulation of TfR expression between these two cell types.

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